Skunks blamed for increase in Kansas cattle with rabies

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HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — An increase in rabid skunks in Kansas is the likely reason why cattle have become the most common domestic animal diagnosed with rabies, a Kansas State University researcher says.

Gregg Hanzlicek, director of production animal field investigations for the university's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, said 13 rabies cases in cattle were recorded this year, up from nine in 2014.

After having 69 positive rabies cases in animals last year — including four cats — a Kansas State diagnostic lab math shows that number nearly doubled in 2015, the Hutchinson News ( reported.

"Next year could be just as bad," Hanzlicek said.

Skunks can carry the disease to domestic animals. Ranchers don't often think about their cattle being carriers, he said, and should be more aware if they see their livestock foaming at the mouth.

"Cattle are curious" and can get bitten if they get too close to a rabid skunk, he said.

Animals bitten on the nose will start showing rabies symptoms earlier than animals bitten on the leg because the virus has less distance to travel to the brain, Hanzlicek said.

Some animals will carry the virus in their saliva before they show clinical signs, he said. That's why he urges ranchers who see an animal acting oddly to call their veterinarian rather than try to check the animal out themselves.

"If they see something acting weird, they open (the livestock's) mouth and look around," Hanzlicek said.

Unlike most ranchers, veterinarians are vaccinated for rabies and know what precautions to take, he said, adding that he knows of a few ranchers who had to undergo treatment for rabies.

There have been no reports of rabies in humans this year, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said.


Information from: The Hutchinson (Kan.) News,

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